0274 | The Day of the Dolphin – Robert Merle


Context: Read this as we took our first flight on the double-decker A380 from Dubai to Seoul. Very nice.


Never heard of this until, scanning my copy of the 1001 list at a flea market, I came across the title. It seemed a bit obscure and, for the life of me, I cannot recall ever even hearing about the ‘sensational’ film that was supposed to have been made from this. Probably just as well. I’ve no idea how they would do it. This has dolphins talking English and people talking Dolphinese and, in a word, it’s bonkers.

Some guy’s researching dolphins and being funded by the US govt. He’s got them as far as monosyllables in English. Quite why they’d persevere in English is beyond me. I mean, if you’re going to tackle a language with another species, there are far simpler phonemic systems out there, not to mention grammar. Esperanto springs to mind… but hey, that’s what Frenchman Robert Merle has them do. At the same time, there’s an incongruent romance going on which doesn’t lend anything to the story at all I thought.

Well, he suddenly has a breakthrough and, meanwhile, in the background, there’s this disjointed political intrigue brewing with mine-laying dolphins at it’s centre. The Russians are in on it and the US is trying to beat them to it and deal with the debacle of Vietnam at the same time (the novel was published during the American War). Everything comes to a rather predictable climax when a US ship explodes for no obvious reason.. da duh daaaaaahhhhh

Anyway, the novel kind of peters out with everything hanging. It’s like he planned a sequel and never finished it. Quite honestly though, I didn’t care. I was just glad to get to the end. It may simply be the translation but I found it difficult to follow and quite difficult to read at times. Why this is on the 1001 list is beyond me. Maybe one of you can tell me…


Home, please, William, said Mrs Jameson with the affected politeness she habitually used to talk to her chauffeur (You know, Dorothy, my servants adore me, I never forget their birthdays and I always speak to them politely).


Because of us, he murmured doubtfully, or because of the humanity of the dolphins?



Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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  1. [quote comment=”21076″]I agree. At home we only speak Esperanto in front of our dolphin. We find English makes him peevish.[/quote]
    ha… that cracked me up!

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